1990s Reflections

90sA lunchtime wander around Topshop has sent me time travelling back to my teenage years – but with the addition of mobile phones and instagram to make life more difficult/way better (delete as appropriate). Mannequins towered above me in Adidas poppers, spaghetti-strap vest tops with deep burgundy lips. If I was in any doubt, the 1990s are most certainly back.

References to the 1990s have been going for a while now and its not just fashion falling for nostalgic reminisces, with girl groups and boy bands reforming aplenty, old TV formats reviving and coffee shimmer darkening the lip of many a millenial. Inspired, we got involved too, with a light hearted dress down 90’s day in the office – not that anyone noticed. Aside from general hilarity and teenage tales, it inspired discussion and reflection on how things were, how things are and how things have and might change.

Lots of us at CSF were teens in the 1990s, and don’t necessarily remember the trends as a reaction against the excesses the 1980s: the shoulder pads, the statement earrings, the lyrcra, bright Royal Blue. Fashion in the 1990s was in many ways a rejection of some of this, a revolt against the glossy, excessive affluence created for the few by market deregulation. It was a more paired down simple aesthetic of vest tops, plaid, plaits, midriffs, and chunky trainers and Doc Martens. There was pastel-y Pop, Brit-pop and alco-pops. It was the end of a century, which is pretty blooming cool.

So, why the 90s revival now? Is there also a yearning for something simpler? Or do all good trends just come round again? Is it just that 90’s kids now have cultural power and influence? Is the glimmer of hope that was change back (yes, before it was ruined by Iraq and the uncool courting of all cool things…), this time with the prospect of actual change?

Like in the 90’s, there is movement now away from things obviously new and expensive, while ‘real’ is championed. Think of Jeremy Corbyn’s much photographed cycling garb, as well as ubiquitous brands making catwalk debuts. Hello, blue Ikea bag. If fashion is a reflection of the times, what are we seeing in the mirror when the past is reflected in the present, which is being reflected back? Does the double reflection make a positive? Positive nostalgia? On this we pondered.

We also mused on the speed of change. As trends change faster and with more frequency will we still have trends that embody an era, or do things need time to percolate and exist for a while in order to be revisited in the future? Trends and nostalgia for them represent something to each of us, but if this something is only a fleeting moment will we even remember it?

I remember my pastel pink one-shouldered glittered cropped top because in this particular memory the Spice Girls provide the soundtrack to high-kicking dance routines, sleepovers and endless gorging on choc ices while reciting, ahem watching Clueless and outside endless summer sunshine. Though perhaps the rose tint is getting a bit too strong. I do remember though that said crop top was one of a handful of ‘fashion’ items I owned. It took pride of place in my wardrobe.

Today, even though I try, there’s a lot of competition for that coveted pride of place spot. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. The sheer number of items we all have has certainly increased, with the average wardrobe now containing 152 items and 46% of people admitting to owning more items of clothing than five years ago, yet, wearing only 44% of these items regularly. That’s more stuff to store, more stuff to wash, more stuff to get rid of.

Of course, there will be enduring trends that mark the turn of this century, and in 20 years the noughties revival will be in full swing, perhaps for a nano second if things continue at current levels. Or perhaps, things will have slowed somewhat. And we will have less stuff, or own stuff in a different way. Or will we be increasingly mindful of what we have, how we use it and what we do with it when it’s no longer required.